What is Nurse Assisting?
Compassion, patience and communication skills are among the qualities that are needed in a career as a nurse aide. Also known as nursing aide or nursing assistant, these professionals work in hospitals and long-term care facilities such as nursing homes or residential centers with patients who are injured, sick or elderly. Under the supervision of licensed practical/vocational nurses or registered nurses, they provide basic healthcare such as monitoring temperature and blood pressure. They also help with other day-to-day activities such as bathing and dressing, moving patients or residents from beds to wheelchairs, and helping them to eat. Nursing aides may act as a liaison between the patient and the medical team. For more information, see our nurse assistant career page.
Nurse Assisting Program Overview
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nursing aides must typically earn a postsecondary certificate or award. Nurse aide training certificates may be offered by community colleges, vocational and technical colleges, healthcare facilities, high schools or other organizations. Most programs contain two components -- classroom study and supervised clinical practice. Classroom study is often available on campus in day, evening and weekend formats or online in a hybrid format. The supervised clinical practice component generally takes place on-site at the school or at a local healthcare facility.
Nurse Assisting Program Types
Nurse aide training programs differ depending on the state and the school. The time it takes to complete a program, ranging from several weeks to three months or more, varies based on the number of hours required and whether the student attends full or part time.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services Office, nurse aides who work in nursing homes that participate in Medicare and Medicaid have specific requirements -- they must complete a state-approved training program, pass a competency exam and receive certification in their state. Qualified programs should include at least 75 hours of training and 15 hours of supervised clinical experience. Individual states and programs have their own admission requirements that can include:
- High school diploma or equivalent
- Recent physical and current immunizations
- Verification of negative tuberculosis screening
- No communicable diseases
- Current cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification
- Satisfactory national criminal background check
- Ability to lift at least 40 pounds to waist level
All states maintain registries to make sure that nurse aides in their jurisdictions have completed state-approved training and passed the state-approved exam. Some states use the National Nurse Aide Assessment exam developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), while others have developed their own exams. Exams generally consist of a written or oral segment and a skills-demonstration segment.
Some states award the title of Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) to those who meet all the requirements, but titles vary by state. CNAs must complete continuing education credits annually to maintain certification.
Nurse Assisting Course Descriptions
Coursework for nurse aide programs generally includes nursing theory and basic nursing. Core classroom courses can include:
- Nursing Theory: The role of the nurse aide, including the importance of interpersonal communication, psychological and sociological aspects of nursing, and the impact of death and dying.
- Basic Nursing: Basic body systems, monitoring vital signs, infection control, patient safety and comfort, nutrition and feeding, personal hygiene and emergency procedures.
- Introductory Healthcare: Topics could include the effects of aging and disease, promotion of patient rights, and the need for patient restorative care and independence.
The clinical experience portion of nurse aide training programs typically involves the practical application of the concepts covered in classroom coursework.
List of Potential Careers for Nurse Assisting
A number of potential occupations are similar to nurse aide, including home health and personal care aide or hospice nursing assistant. Requirements for these positions may vary according to the employer -- for example, certified home health or hospice agencies may require candidates to complete additional formal training and an examination.
Nurse aides may also wish to explore the following related occupations:
- Certified Medication Assistants: To earn the credentials to administer medication, candidates may need to receive their CNA certificate as well as complete the Medication Aide Certification Examination from the NCSBN.
- Occupational Therapist Assistants: These professionals work with occupational therapists in order to help patients recover or improve the physical skills needed for daily living. The usual training includes an associate degree, and licensing may be preferred or required.
- Physical Therapy Aides: These aides help patients who have lost mobility to regain their physical abilities through techniques such as targeted exercise. These healthcare workers usually need at least a high school diploma and on-the-job training.
- Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurses: LPNs or LVNs work under registered nurses and physicians to provide patient care and monitor patients' health. Requirements include an approved nursing program and professional licensing through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
Links to Sources and Associations
The following websites offer more information about nurse assistant training programs and requirements:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, "Home Health and Personal Care Aides," http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home-health-and-personal-care-aides.htm
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, "Nursing Aides, Orderlies and Attendants," http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nursing-assistants.htm
Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, "Nurse Aide Training," 2002, http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-05-01-00030.pdf
Houston Chronicle, "What are the Qualifications for a Certified Nurse's Aide," Jeffrey Joiner, http://work.chron.com/qualifications-certified-nurses-aide-13203.html
National Association of Health Care Assistants, http://www.nahcacares.org/
National Council of State Boards of Nursing, "Nurse Aide Assessment Program," https://www.ncsbn.org/1721.htm
National Network of Career Nursing Assistants, http://www.cna-network.org
North Carolina Division of Health Service Regulation, "State Nurse Aide Registry List," http://www.ncdhhs.gov/dhsr/hcpr/links.html